New favorite museum, Des Moines Art Center
When you get to
To start with the building(s). The foundation is a 1948 structure by Eliel Saarinen, which has Prairie style horizontal lines and an open layout. To this the museum added a wing by I.M. Pei during the years one hired I.M. Pei for such things (1968) and one by Richard Meier from the years when one hired him to do such things (1985). If they were in the market for a new wing a couple of years ago I’m sure they would’ve gotten Gehry, but I’m grateful we were spared that. Each wing has its merits, although taken together it feels a little like an architecture collection.
I’m going to try to write at length about one of the special exhibits later. The permanent collection is of consistently high quality, and really picks up in the 1960s going forward. There are strong older pieces like a couple of Picassos, a nice Klee, prints from various eras, and works by interesting less common people like the Russians Larianov, Goncharova, and Rozanova. But the collection doesn’t go back much farther in painting and sculpture. They don’t seem to have Old Masters, which is what you would expect—it’s hard to imagine
The last half of the 20th Century, American and European artists, especially Germans, are well represented. A Rothko, a Gottlieb, Diebenkorns of the abstract and representational variety. Two major pieces by Sol LeWit—a set of 56 cubes that have the scale of a minor architectural site, and a massive painting covering a huge wall in the
For art of the last 30 years, there seems to be a good example of everything. A great Eva Hesse construction (four fiberglass-coated wire mesh forms with umbilical cord or intenstine-like latex covered coils coming out of them). A big strong Kiefer, with Holocaust-evoking train tracks. A Joseph Beuys blackboard for crying out loud. John Currin doing the 3 Graces meet Desperate Housewives—I hate to admit it, but I think this is the first time I’ve seen a Currin painting in the flesh, and it does have an undeniable presence. Everything seems to get touched on—a Julian Schnabel plate painting from 1978. A little Chris Offili. Obviously I could go on and on.
So just file that away for your next trip to